I once happened to attend a Capitol Hill event at which (then-) former President Carter and (future-) Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had been invited to speak upon the opening of some new foreign policy think tank.
The Senate hearing room was packed in all directions with Hill staff waiting for one reason and one reason only: to hear Carter speak. Albright was unknown to most people back then, and nobody cared about the opening of that think tank per se.
Thus, it seemed kind of poignant to me when, upon Albright’s starting to speak, Carter quite noticeably stood up, picked up his chair, turned it toward Albright, and then sat down again facing her, obviously so that he could listen to her more easily. There he was, the ex-President of the United States, sitting sideways in the center of the podium, purposefully using himself as a kind of mirror to deflect all of the attention that an ex-President naturally claims to focus everyone who was watching on someone else whom he considered important. Then, because he was listening to Albright, so did everyone else.
In all of the years since the day of that think tank opening, I have often thought of that Carter-turning-his-chair moment as a perfect of metaphor for Carter’s life. Notwithstanding the fact that Carter served only one term in the White House, I think, Carter has distinguished himself far more than any other President in my lifetime with his ineluctable commitment to using every last ounce of his power as President and ex-President to focus all of our attention — not on himself — but on “smaller” people and issues which he seems to believe are more important even than a U.S. President.
Thank you President Carter for focusing the world on voting rights, fair elections, disease, poverty, women’s rights and Palestinian rights, among many other things, with all of your power for all of these years.
Good bless you.